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David Kirby, Chief Executive Officer, Avida Global:

Colombia: “Growing on the equator means we use less energy and are capable of six harvests per year”

“Even though the Colombian environment is fantastic, we grow in greenhouses that are designed to maximize the benefits of the local climate,” says David Kirby, CEO of Avida Global. Founded in 2018, the company is headquartered in London, with a dedicated cultivation and production facility in North-East Colombia. “Many are currently focused on North America and Europe, but there are equal opportunities in Latin America. Not only are the Colombian market and climate great, but there are also many skilled people out there ready to work.”

Choosing Colombia
While doing the research around cultivation locations, Kirby explains that Colombia stood out quickly. “Colombia had put together a legislative framework making the country set on becoming a leader in medicinal cannabis. Yet most importantly for a grower is, of course, the Colombian climate. Being right on the equator means that we use less energy and are capable of six harvests per year. Moreover, there are reasonably affordable but very high-quality skill sets in Colombia. The universities are training people in the agronomic engineering of medicinal cannabis, so there are lots of high-quality skills out there. Moreover, the Latin American market is big and continues to grow rapidly.”



Maximizing the benefits
Even though the environment in North-East Colombia is very beneficial for cannabis cultivation and production, the company uses greenhouses to maximize the benefits of the climate. “The greenhouses are purpose-built and are ISO accredited and GACP/EU-GMP compliant. We grow hydroponically in a benign substance. The reason we grow like this is because the cannabis plant is a bit like a sponge and will soak up any impurities in the ground, such as heavy metals or pesticides. In order to produce a very clean plant, we use hydroponics to control all the nutrients and everything that goes into the plant.” When it is time to harvest, the company practices micro-batch harvesting. Kirby explains: “Even though we are capable of up to six harvests per year, we actually do about two or three small harvests per week, harvesting a bed at a time. We are very much focused on batch-to-batch consistency, and these small harvests enable us to control the quality. If something goes wrong, you can remedy it quickly, and you can supply your customers on a much faster basis.”

Industry challenges
While things are going well now, Kirby explains that the company had to go through some hurdles when first starting out. “We built the business in 2018, right in the middle of Covid. Colombia was in a very strict lockdown, so it was difficult to get people to the site to work. Moreover, the pandemic posed a massive challenge for fundraising, which effectively dried up over the period. These last years, raising capital in the cannabis industry has been challenging overall. In 2017/2018, Canadian companies were raising millions, but the market has changed since. The cannabis industry is not a bandwagon anymore that people are jumping on. Companies are much more scrutinized now.”

Moreover, Kirby mentions that the rate of growth of the cannabis industry is not as prolific as once expected. “What the 2018 industry analysts’ reports were saying about the global state of the industry in 2022 looks nothing like it does today. The truth is that the cannabis industry will no doubt be a big industry, but it is happening slower than everyone imagined. The challenge for companies is to build a company with integrity that will weather the challenges and last.”

Supporting the local community
Where the company produces their cannabis in Colombia, there is poverty in the area. Therefore, they decided to set up the Avida Foundation to support the local community. The Foundation is based on four pillars: education, environment, local enterprise, and arts and culture. “We sponsor a local school for farm children, where we helped rebuild a classroom, reinstated a football pitch, and built a garden. We also supply materials, such as satchels, pens, and paper. Some of the children have never worn shoes, so we did a big campaign to deliver football boots for them.” The Foundation has also sponsored a local music festival and always puts on a Christmas party. “When people were not able to work and earn money during the lockdown, we helped deliver over four tons of food parcels to local families.”

Although Avida Global started out as a medicinal cannabis company, following a series of strategically important acquisitions, the company is growing to become a Global player in the plant-based medicines category. Its white-labeling and manufacturing business, Avida Labs, formulates and manufactures bespoke topical and ingestible white-label products. Originally focused on the CBD space, this has grown to encompass functional mushrooms following an exclusive agreement with Optimi Health, the leading functional and psychedelic mushroom producer in North America. The Group also has its own award-winning CBD brand called Green Stem CBD.

“We’re incredibly excited about the future,” says Kirby. “We have an acquisition in the pipeline that will be a game-changer in the industry and many other discussions that we have been having over the past 12 months or so are coming to fruition, which will open up huge opportunities in different markets and sectors. It’s far more exciting than we could ever have imagined when we started out in 2018.”

For more information:
Avida Global
www.avidaglobal.com

 


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